It’s hard to call Elsik High School’s soccer team an underdog — the squad from Southwest Houston has become a national powerhouse — but it’s also hard to call them anything but. A long, engrossing portrait of a program marked by love, second chances, and a ceaselessly nurtured sense of newfound family.
About half of this year’s Elsik players were born outside the U.S. In addition to Honduras, they come from El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Vietnam, and Mexico. Many hadn’t played organized soccer before high school. Hector came up playing in the streets of La Ceiba, a port city of roughly 200,000 on the Gulf of Honduras. Senior defender Toliat Ajuwon grew up competing barefoot in Nigeria, braving “no-mercy” pickup games he said were more aggressive than anything he’d seen in the States. Junior midfielder Oumar Berete arrived last year from Senegal, where “nine out of ten kids want to be a soccer player” and where he played informal games on the beach but never had a proper coach.